“I saw the Nurture internship advertised in an email and I applied for that role, before having an interview.” I’m chatting to Bethany Deacon for the first time via Microsoft Teams. She’s the Product Development Lead at Mondrem; a role she didn’t apply for, but one that was created to suit her expertise.
“They didn’t pick me for that role, but Mike liked how I came across so much that he found one for me.
“I was interested initially because of the environmental aspects, along with Mondrem’s dedication to helping people through quality relationships and improving circumstances.”
Typically, interviews are perceived as cold and uncomfortable. But for Bethany, the interview felt like a chat.
“Mike and Lucy were friendly, and the interview felt like a chat – a very odd chat – but just a chat. Mike and I accidentally discovered that we shared a lot of things in common during the interview, which was great.”
From working in a zero-waste shop to living in the sustainability bungalow at Keele, Bethany’s interests and experiences are all connected by an environmental thread. But my intrigue is piqued when she mentions her involvement in the Tea Society at Keele.
“I was committed to the Tea Society at Keele. We got a grant in proportion to our membership and we’d spend our funds on loose leaf tea, which we would drink together. We’d buy teas that you wouldn’t normally get so that people could try them and maybe even find a new favourite.”
After finishing her undergraduate degree in Maths and Physics, Bethany decided to enrol onto Keele’s MSc in Environmental Sustainability and Green Technology.
“I really like doing things right and it’s easier to know that you have if there’s a definite correct answer, so that’s why I’ve tended to study STEM subjects. But I wanted to make sure I would work for something that I believed in.
“On my current course you have to take what is already known about the science and then weigh up the pros and cons of using it, so human elements are more involved in what we study. My undergraduate degree gave me the tools to use, and this is showing me the situations in which I should use those tools.”
Bethany understands the scale and complexity of the global environmental problems we face but stresses the importance of feeling empowered – feeling as though you can make difference.
“If everyone has the same environmental leanings and everyone does their bit, we will start to solve some of the environmental problems we face. We can’t possibly do anything to solve the issues created by other countries, but we can help a local business to become more carbon efficient or energy efficient – which saves them money and the planet. It makes sense for everyone to do their bit.
“I think people generally feel quite disempowered about the environment, but they can have more of an effect than they think because everyone has an influence on some sort of system. Everyone is employed in a system or manages a household that has a significant environmental impact. You might be an influence in your community that can change the minds of those around you. You can do things, even if it feels like you can’t. Often, saving money and saving resources is better for you and the planet at the same time.
“But most importantly, it’s about not judging others and doing your best.”
Effort is what inspires Bethany. But what shape does effort take?
“It’s inspiring when people put effort into making things better. When something breaks in your household and you fix it, you don’t have to buy a replacement. When a system breaks and you fix it, chaos does not ensue. It may not seem like a big thing from the outside but that work is important.”
Having both family and friends who work in public services means that Bethany often has conversations about those services. She’s heard about them at their best and their worst.
“Looking after the community is what made humans successful as a species. Public services must be managed carefully and competently to provide the best possible response for all individuals.
“My mother works in mental health, and I know a lot of people who use mental health services. Those people are important to me and they all have a lot of frustrations about the system, especially my mother.”
Naturally, this brings us onto the topic of efficiency and what it means for a service to be efficient.
“People see efficiency as cold and unfeeling, but efficiency is generally the kindest thing to do because it means to get the best outcome for everyone in the shortest amount of time. So, I feel like those things are more natural bedfellows than they get credit for. Efficiency wrongly gets confused with cutting corners.”